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LEE MUCK, Assistant to the Secretary
D ECONVERSION in a broad sense means the return of the Nation '^ as expeditiously as possible to the pursuits of peace. For the Department of the Interior it points to the need of an inventory of those national assets for the management of which we are directly responsible; a determination as to the extent of the depletion of these assets which may have occurred as a result of the war; and the preparation of plans which will insure a maximum restoration of the impaired values and the development of a sustained national economy. The basic wealth of the Nation, represented in large measure by its soils and waters, forests, and pasture lands, has been drawn upon as never before to provide the essentials of war that brought victory to the United States and its allies after five destructive years. Reconversion to a sound peacetime economy following the war and its attendant heavy drain upon the natural resources of the Nation therefore presents a problem and a challenge to the Department in the field of land and resource management.
The problem and the challenge involved in reconversion place a responsibility upon the land and resource management agencies of the Department to provide a more fully coordinated and integrated management program by virtue of which the lands and resources under their respective jurisdictions will be so administered as to insure the greatest possible returns to society in the years ahead.
The value of cooperation and of coordinated and integrated action to secure desired results was most clearly demonstrated during the war. The principles involved were not new but the successful application thereof under so many and such varied conditions constituted a complete demonstration of the importance of unified action in the conducting of operations. If the same cooperative approach is applied to the solution of the problems of peace, the future of the Nation is assured, regardless of the serious drain on its natural resources.
The land and resource management problem facing the bureaus and agencies of the Department of the Interior in reality is not one problem but many problems, all closely related and having a distinct bearing on the successful establishment of peacetime economy. The complexity and interrelation of land and resource management problems which exists has been recognized in the Department for many years and finally brought about the establishment of the Office of Land Utilization in the year 1941 with a view to evolving a unified conservation program. In the interim much has been accomplished, but much more remains to be done to coordinate and integrate fully and effectively the operations of the respective bureaus and agencies of the Department and to secure effective cooperation with other governmental agencies operating in similar land-use fields.
While major attention during the past 4 years has been directed to winning the war, nevertheless the long-time problems of peace have not been neglected, and marked accomplishments have been made in several important lines of cooperative endeavor, namely:
1. The development of a Nation-wide soil and moisture conservation program on lands under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior.
2. The coordination of the forestry activities and the development of a more effective forest and range protection program.
3. The clarification and reorientation of the land-use policies of the Department and the establishment of sound land-classification procedures.
4. The organization of the Water Resources Committee which is charged with the responsibility of acting for the Department and its agencies on problems affecting the water resources of the Nation.
5. The rendering of advisory service looking to the solution of numerous day-to-day management problems that constantly arise in a Department with highly diversified activities.
The encouraging results accomplished were made possible through the application of a high level of functional coordination and the integrating and reconciling of divergent views, experiences, and judgments in the field of land administration. The objectives sought were attained through cooperative efforts and the dissemination of information with respect to operating programs and practices and through the rendering of technical service on management problems. The practical application of these administrative principles and the degree of success achieved in the several fields in which they were applied are hereafter set forth.
SOIL AND MOISTURE CONSERVATION OPERATIONS
The Soil and Moisture Conservation program of the Department of the Interior is an integrated and coordinated program conducted through the land-management agencies of the Department on the Federal lands under their respective jurisdictions. It is a segment of the national soil conservation program, the other parts of which are conducted by agencies in the Department of Agriculture. It has for its purpose the correction of soil erosion and water losses occurring on approximately 60 million acres of land widely distributed through the various States in which there are public lands. The principal areas on which soil and moisture conservation operations are being performed comprise portions of the various river basins lying west of the Mississippi River and largely west of the Rocky Mountains.
Within each of these river basins there are land areas administered by some one or more of the land-management bureaus of the Department. For example, in the Snake River Basin—a tributary of the Columbia—there are national parks and monuments, fish and wildlife refuges, Indian lands, reclamation projects, grazing districts, and unappropriated and unreserved public domain areas. An orderly, integrated plan of soil and moisture conservation on Federal lands under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior in the Snake River drainage basin requires that the Department exercise supervisory authority over conservation operations in the whole area in order to insure that the various land-management agencies perform soil and moisture conservation operations within the basin that are essential to the correction of the situation as a whole. These operations are further coordinated with the management responsibilities of the agencies concerned in order that full value may be obtained from the restoration and management work performed. Furthermore, since there are intermingled lands in private ownership within the basin, and also lands under the administration of other Federal and State agencies, it is necessary that the Department of the Interior conservation program be coordinated with the programs of these other agencies. Specific reference in this connection is made to the State soil conservation districts operating under State law with the advice and aid of the Soil Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture, and the general program of the Forest Service, also in the Department of Agriculture.
The problem is a complex one from any angle. The task of restoration under the best of circumstances is difficult. The complex land ownership pattern and the conflict of interests and uses tends further to complicate the situation.
The Office of Land Utilization determines the over-all program in the areas where operations are to be conducted, harmonizes and compromises any differences that may develop, and provides for a maximum amount of assistance necessary to secure correction of erosion and water losses. To this end, advice and assistance are given to the agencies concerned regarding the conditions and circumstances under which projects may be established, the type and character of work to be performed, and approval of the expenditures to be incurred. Under this program attention can be, and is, directed toward the correction of conditions on the more critically eroded areas of Federal lands and the operations performed are those of proved value as demonstrated heretofore under like soil and other conditions.
Wherever possible the securing of a maximum amount of cooperation from the users of the lands is urged, for, while the lands are exclusively or primarily in Federal ownership, the users who are dependent thereon for a livelihood have a definite interest in their reconstruction and improvement. This cooperative feature constitutes a further coordination of the soil and moisture conservation program which facilitates and hastens the corrective procedures while providing more definite assurance against recurrence of the destructive processes that have heretofore occurred. The constant pressure by the Department in this matter of cooperation has resulted in a year-to-year increase in the amount of such cooperation, until at the present time the amount contributed is almost equal in value to the appropriations authorized by Congress for soil and moisture conservation operations on the Federal lands.
The soil and moisture conservation program of the Department comprises operations on 500 project areas scattered through 30 States, embracing a total area of approximately 60 million acres. It has been determined that of this total between 10 and 12 million acres can be classed as being in a serious or critically eroded condition. Approximately 20 million acres in addition should receive some attention from a soil and moisture conservation standpoint, with the remaining 30 million acres largely in the twilight zone where material benefits from a conservation standpoint can be obtained without too large expenditures, provided the lands and resources are properly managed.
In the field of forest conservation the program of the Office of Land Utilization has been mainly directed toward the accomplishment of three specific objectives:
1. The securing of adequate protection for the forest and range resources administered by the Department.
2. The development of the sustained-yield principle in the management of the forest resources under the jurisdiction of the Department.
3. The formulation of a sound plan of management for the forests of the interior of Alaska.
In the field of protection the Office of Land Utilization rendered advisory service to the agencies concerned in more fully and adequately presenting to the Congress the whole forest protection problem on the 400 million acres of forest, brush, and grass lands under management in the continental United States and Alaska. Appropriations made available during the past 4 years have more than doubled and, while not yet sufficient to provide adequate protection